This Girls Group Mentoring Toolkit provides the tools, resources and support to create, implement, deliver and evaluate a quality group mentoring program for girls, ages 9-13, in your community. The Toolkit is intended to be used in a range of communities, and can be adapted to the unique values, needs, strengths and challenges that each community encompasses.
“Stories of at-risk sexual-minority youth are increasingly being transgressed by stories of resilient sexual-minority youth who survive and thrive amid the risks and barriers they face daily.”
- Grace (n.d.)
Youth are often exploring the question of “who am I?” Sexual and gender identity is part of that exploration. Gender variance refers to those expressions of gender that do not conform to the dominant gender norms of Western culture. Sexual orientation relates to who you are attracted to romantically and sexually, whether to the same sex, the other sex or both sexes. This attraction usually begins during preadolescence, as puberty begins the production of sexual hormones. Gender identity is a different concept that involves an internal sense of being male or female (Healthwise, 2013). Though the language of gender identity is contemporary, people have challenged the stereotypical categories of gender for most of human history. Some gender variant youth may struggle with their sexual orientation, but this is not always or necessarily the case.
Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta runs a girls mentoring program in several northern, rural communities. In one of their groups, a participant shared that they did not identify with being a girl. It was requested that they be referred to as “he” and “him” and start using a different version of his name. The group created a space for him to talk about this and to share the challenges of addressing it with his family. The other participants provided support and he continued to participate in the group. It also created a valuable teaching moment for the other participants on diversity and inclusion.
LGBTQ is an acronym which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning. The term LGBTQ often encompasses additional terms such as Transexual, Two-Spirit, Intersex and Asexual. LGBTQ youth experience a range of challenges:
“Youth are also more accepting of others than they were 20 years ago. Among youth in grade 7−12 today, 59% agree with the statement ‘Gay or lesbian relationships are okay, if that is a person’s choice’,” compared to 31% who agreed with this in 1989
- Salmond & Schoenberg (2009).
Mentoring for LGBTQ girls can offer support through what can be a difficult, unsupported or stressful transition. Rummell (2013) summarizes how mentors can support and advocate for gender and sexual minority youth:
“Silent no more, [LGBTQ youth] represent a new generation of queer youth who have the knowledge, support, and confidence to speak out against homophobia and transphobia and demand that their human and civil rights are not only protected, but also respected.”
- Wells (2012)
In addition, to support and include LGBTQ girls, programs and mentors can:
Mentoring opportunities for LGBTQ girls can be a positive and powerful way to encourage, empower and support youth.